Benchmark Capital, a major investor in Uber that owns approximately 13 percent of the most valuable startup in the world, sued the ride-hailing giant’s former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick over fraud, looking to completely oust him from the company he founded in 2009. The firm filed a lawsuit against Mr. Kalanick with the Delaware Chancery Court on Thursday, accusing him of breaking his fiduciary duty to investors by filling Uber’s Board of Directors with his confidantes and thus maintaining a tight grip on the company in an effort to prepare for his eventual return as its top executive. The lawsuit seeks to cancel the three board seats that Uber’s former CEO added to the firm’s board in mid-2016 and while two of them are presently vacant, the final one is held by Mr. Kalanick himself, meaning that Benchmark Capital is effectively looking to completely force him out of the company.
According to recent reports, Mr. Kalanick told some of his colleagues that he intends on “Steve Jobs-ing” the current situation, hinting that he’ll be looking to emulate the career path of the late Apple co-founder who returned to the Cupertino, California-based tech giant nearly a decade after being ousted by its board. Benchmark Capital’s lawsuit makes no mention of this unconfirmed rumor but it’s still insistent that Mr. Kalanick has ambitions to return to Uber in a top management role “to the detriment” of the company’s employees, investors, partners, and customers. A spokesperson for Mr. Kalanick later explicitly stated that the lawsuit is “riddled with lies,” consequently accusing Benchmark Capital of looking to capitalize on the current situation at the expense of Uber itself, without clarifying on the matter.
The latest development comes as Uber is said to be close to concluding its search for a new CEO that’s meant to replace Mr. Kalanick. Following his unexpected resignation in June that was largely prompted by Benchmark Capital itself, the firm’s co-founder remained on its board and even participated in Uber’s efforts to find a new top executive. It’s currently unclear whether the San Francisco-based company is also planning on resuming its search for a COO that started this spring when Mr. Kalanick was still expected to continue leading Uber in the coming years.